The Huskies are 9-5-1 and ranked 19th in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll after winning Notre Dame’s tournament.
In this, the final, Monday morning wrapup of the season, I’m tempted to say that one I learned was that USCHO’s Jayson Moy blows away all competition when it comes to Bracketology. He did, after all, pick the NCAA tournament perfectly in all its details. Yet again.
But I can’t use Jayson as the best at what he does because I already knew that. And if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve known that, too.
So onward, then, to the three things I think I learned this week.
1. Boston University coach Jack Parker won’t be making one last trip to the NCAA tournament.
It would have been nice to see Jack make one last hurrah, perhaps a trip to the Frozen Four where, in a perfect world, he’d face Boston College coach Jerry York, who would have returned from his eye surgery.
But although the Terriers stunned BC with five straight goals in the semifinal game to keep their coach from ending his career against their archrival in the TD Garden, they couldn’t overcome Massachusetts-Lowell to keep their season alive.
And so it all ends for a coaching legend who led Terrier teams for a mind-blowing 40 years, becoming in the end synonymous with BU hockey.
Hockey East has been richer for his presence and will be poorer in his absence.
May he enjoy the retirement he so richly deserves.
2. BC suffered a surprising demise.
It’s not just that the Eagles lost. It’s how they lost.
But first, the loss itself. Prior to the BU upset, Eagles seniors had held a perfect 14-0 record in the TD Garden. That’s right, four straight Beanpot titles and three straight Hockey East championships.
The Terriers ended that amazing streak.
As for how it happened, BC’s team defense allowed five straight goals after the Eagles jumped out to a 2-0. What was even more startling was the string of breakaways surrendered that was part of that downfall.
We’ve all known for a while that this year’s team lacks the defensive prowess of the Eagles of the past three seasons, all of which led the league in least goals allowed. This year’s edition with its reliance on freshmen didn’t even come close.
But all those breakaways serve as a scary introduction into the NCAA tournament. While I believe the Eagles will be playing in the most forgiving of the four regional sites, that luck of the draw won’t be enough if they give up breakaways by the bushel the way they did against BU.
Of course, I expressed similar concerns about the BC defense after the Eagles defeated Maine, 7-6, almost blowing the lead in the Hockey East title game. In that year’s Frozen Four, they defeated Miami, 7-1, and shut out Wisconsin, 5-0.
(As an aside to the North Dakota fans who are upset that their team won’t be in the East Regional, you didn’t get placed in the easiest regional, but you didn’t get put in the toughest one either (that being the Northeast). And as an eighth seed, you deserve, in theory, the toughest second-round matchup, not the easiest.
(So you’re really getting what you deserve even though the selection committee’s reason for not giving you Quinnipiac — surely the weakest overall number one seed in memory — was attendance, not justice.
(And finally to the WCHA fanatics annoyed that their six teams didn’t get spread across the regions more evenly, Hockey East fans haven’t been delighted in past years with the distribution of their teams either, but that’s just how it goes.
(Besides, over the last six years, you’ve only gotten two teams to the national championship game with one of them winning it. Those results speak volumes.)
3. Lowell is very much a prime time player.
Programs sometimes need that little extra oomph to get over hurdles at each successive level. The River Hawks have cleared a couple new ones already this year. (See Saturday night’s feature.)
They’ve got a tough bracket, but is there any reason to start doubting them now?
I certainly have no such intentions.
Best of luck to all the Hockey East teams!
If Jim weren’t such a great friend, I’d gloat just a little over how thoroughly I trounced him in the picks race this year. But since Jim is such a great friend… I’m going to gloat a lot!
Hey, that’s what buddies do. I might even get a sign to put over my bed in our room at the Frozen Four that says, “Home of the Hockey East Picks Champion!” It could be a very long Frozen Four for Jimmy.
Heh, heh, heh.
Dave last week: 8-1-0
Jim last week: 8-1-0
Dave’s record-to-date: 119-71-25
Jim’s record-to-date: 111-79-25
Here are this week’s picks:
Friday, March 22
Hockey East Semifinals
No. 1 Massachusetts-Lowell vs. No. 4 Providence
Dave’s pick: This could be a terrific battle that goes into overtime. Connor Hellebuyck vs. Jon Gillies. Unattached Hockey East partisans will be rooting for Providence so the league can get more than three teams into the NCAA tournament, but my gut instinct is that the Friars are one year away.
UML 2, PC 1
Jim’s pick: I have a concern that the Providence defense and Jon Gillies will simply shut down Lowell. But I’m still going to pick the favorite.
UML 3, PC 2
No. 2 Boston College vs. No. 3 Boston University
Dave’s pick: Will this game mark the end of BU’s season and Jack Parker’s coaching career? It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Terriers pull this one out, but I’m going with the Eagles in double overtime.
BC 4, BU 3 (2 OT)
Jim’s pick: I’m similar to Dave in that I can imagine BU using its “Ray Lewis factor” to win, but I still think BC is the better team.
BC 4, BU 2
Saturday, March 23
Hockey East Championship
Dave’s pick: I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if any one of the four teams takes the title. The match-ups are that close. But I’m going with the River Hawks who have been too exceptional for too long. A record of 20-3-1 down the stretch doesn’t lie (and gets even better if you factor in that Connor Hellebuyck was sidelined for two of the losses.) If it isn’t the River Hawks, then I’m going with the Eagles out of pure March-April reflex. But the margins are really paper-thin this year.
UML 3, BC 2 or UML 3, BU 2 or if Lowell lost in the semis,
BC3, PC 1 or BU 3, PC 2
Jim’s pick: Again, I agree with Dave. While this is a wide open championship tournament, Lowell record down the stretch is simply too incredible to pick against. While I go with Lowell to win it all, here are all of the scenarios.
UML 3, BC 2 or UML 4, BU 2 or if Lowell lost in the semis,
BC 4, PC 2 or BU 3, PC 2
These are the three things I think I learned this week.
1. Boston College coach Jerry York could miss the Hockey East championships.
When news broke on Saturday that York had suffered a second detached retina of his right eye, he was ruled out of the weekend’s series with Vermont and nothing more.
But with surgery scheduled for this morning and considering that last time he missed four games and had to spend the bulk of most days lying face down as part of his recuperation, I wouldn’t think it likely that he’ll be back to the Hockey East championships this week.
Associate head coaches Mike Cavanaugh and Greg Brown will lead the team in York’s absence as they did previously. Both are exceptional coaches, but York will still be missed. That this won’t be uncharted territory for the team helps, but it still means the Eagles won’t be at 100 percent.
Keep in mind that BC is not an overwhelming powerhouse this year that can simply run on autopilot. This team needs York.
That said, let’s hope he doesn’t rush back and in any way endanger his health. Even of that means he doesn’t return until a potential trip to the Frozen Four.
2. Friday night promises to be a dose of the old and a dose of the new.
Is there anyone (other than the teams that were eliminated and their fans) who is disappointed that on Friday night at eight o’clock we’ll be watching Boston College and Boston University play for the bajillionth time in their storied programs’ histories?
It’s great theatre when these two teams clash whether it’s in the Beanpot, a regular season contest, or a playoff game for a shot at all the marbles.
There’ll be even more on the line than usual, at least for BU. The Terriers will certainly be hoping to prolong coach Jack Parker’s career at least one more game so they should come out flying. And as it stands right now, they quite likely need a win to prolong their own NCAA tournament hopes.
BU sits on the bubble, tied with four other teams for 16th place. Strange things could happen, most notably if other results propel Merrimack back into Teams Under Consideration status (by pushing its RPI above .500). This would help BU immeasurably since the Terriers went 5-0 against the Warriors.
Strange things aside, however, BU most likely needs to win or have its season end entirely.
As for the new, there’s Massachusetts-Lowell and Providence in the 5 p.m. game. Although the two teams did just face each other a week ago in a weekend series to determine the regular season champion, they’re still relative strangers to the TD Garden compared to BC and BU.
You have go back 12 years for the last time both teams advanced to the league semifinals. Kudos to Lowell coach Norm Bazin and PC coach Nate Leaman for the exceptional turnarounds they’ve performed in just two years at those schools.
3. It’s the end of the line for Maine, Vermont, and Merrimack.
While almost certainly New Hampshire can expect an NCAA tournament berth, the season ended for the other three quarterfinal losers.
All three can point to high moments in the season. Merrimack stood in first place just a few weeks ago. Maine and Vermont both put together strong second halves.
But even if that softens the blow a bit, the sting still lingers, especially for the seniors whose collegiate careers have come to a close.
So here’s a tip of the hat to all those players who provided so much enjoyment for all of us.
There are a maximum of 15 games remaining to be played in Hockey East. I enter this weekend eight games behind Dave. I should be waving the white flag. But my never-give-up mentality is keeping me alive. Then again, Dave can just match all of my picks this weekend and I’m done. So let’s just say that my white flag is hanging out of my back pocket.
Jim last week: 5-3-1
Jim to date: 103-78-25
Dave last week: 5-3-1
Dave to date: 111-70-25
#8 Maine vs. #1 Massachusetts-Lowell (Thurs., Fri., Sun. at Tsongas Arena)
Jim’s pick: I know that many will say Maine was playing its best hockey down the stretch, but so was Lowell. And I believe the River Hawks best is significantly better than Maine’s.
UML 4, Maine 1; UML 3, Maine 2; (if necc.) UML 4, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: I agree completely with Jim. Over their last 22 games, the River Hawks are 18-3-1. While the Black Bears took the regular-season series, 2-1, one loss came early and the other with Connor Hellebuyck sidelined due to injury. Maine will make it more interesting than Jim thinks, but the results will be the same.
UML 3, Maine 2; UML 4, Maine 3 (OT); (if necc.) UML 3, Maine 2
#7 Vermont at Boston College (Fri., Sat., and Sun. Kelley Rink)
Jim’s pick: Vermont played some great hockey near season’s end, but they now run into a Boston College team that has seemingly had their number when games are played in Chestnut Hill. I do see Vermont keeping it close, but don’t see them winning.
BC 3, UVM 2; BC 3, UVM 1; (if necc.) BC 5, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: I underestimated the Catamounts all season long and may repeat that mistake yet again, but I can’t see the Eagles getting pushed to a third game.
BC 4, UVM 2; BC 4, UVM 1; (if necc.) BC 4, UVM 1
#6 Merrimack at #3 Boston University (Fri., Sat., and Sun. at Agganis Arena)
Jim’s pick: This is one of the series I see going three games. Despite BU’s sweep of the Warriors in the regular season, I see this being a very close series with a razor-thin margin of error for each team.
MC 4, BU 3; BU 4, MC 2; (if necc.) BU 3, MC 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: I’ve been bullish on the Warriors all season long so you’d think that I’d go with them here, especially with BU losing Garrett Noonan and Matt O’Connor. But BU swept this series and in impressive fashion: a collective 12-4 margin with none of that inflated by empty-net goals. So there’s a significant match-up issue here between two teams with very active defensemen. That, plus I see the Terriers giving their legendary coach an emotional send-off.
BU 4, MC 2; BU 3, MC 2; (if necc.) BU 4, MC 2
#5 New Hampshire at #4 Providence (Fri., Sat., and Sun at Schneider Arena)
Jim’s pick: There is one storyline that really is in play this weekend: which goaltender will play better. I expect Jon Gillies to handle the pressure of his first playoff and I think he may be the edge Providence needs to advance.
PC 3, UNH 2; UNH 2, PC 1; (if necc.) PC 3, UNH 2 (OT)
Dave’s pick: Back in November, I expected to see UNH in the Frozen Four. The Wildcats were playing terrific defensive hockey and a great all-around game. But since then, they’ve faltered, most recently going 2-3-5 over their last 10, including losing home ice by managing only a single point in two games at home against Maine. Meanwhile, the Friars have gone 5-2-4 down the stretch, including wins over BC, Lowell, and UNH. Since they are a young team, they could fail to put two exceptional efforts together back-to-back and require a third game like Jim predicts, but I think they’ll sweep.
PC 3, UNH 2; PC 3 UNH 2 (OT); (if necc.) PC 3, UNH 2
In 28 years, no team with a name other than Boston College, Boston University, Maine or New Hampshire ever won the Hockey East regular season title. Saturday night, that changed when Massachusetts-Lowell, a team that began the season 2-6-1 in league play, finished off an incredible late-season run to capture its first Hockey East regular season title. That leads the three things I’ll take away from this weekend.
1. All hail the River Hawks, unless you’re the Black Bears
Sure, Lowell has the coronation of regular season champion to don, but the excitement will last less than a week. On Thursday, the River Hawks will begin a best 2-of-3 quarterfinal series versus Maine. Generally the first-place team can glide through the quarterfinals. Not so for Lowell. Maine has played its best hockey down the stretch and won the season series against the River Hawks, two-games-to-one.
2. Boston University and Merrimack, an interesting study
Very few teams dominated Merrimack this season. Boston University was one of them. BU swept Merrimack by scores of 3-1, 4-1 and 5-2. But as many say, it’s difficult to beat a team four times in a season. BU will need to defeat the Warriors five times if they’re to advance. Home ice can be a major difference maker but this should be a series to watch for a potential upset.
All that may be an afterthought after we learned on Sunday that legendary BU head coach Jack Parker will retire at the end of the season. This easily could become the Ray Lewis effect and spur BU on to an inspired performance in the playoffs. More on that later in the week.
3. Let’s play two… three… four… maybe five
Boston College took three of four points at Vermont this weekend. But to advance to the TD Garden, the Eagles will need to earn two more wins next weekend in a best-of-three quarterfinal series. If this game goes to three games, obviously, the Eagles and Catamounts will play five straight games against one another something Boston University and Northeastern did two years ago. Needless to say, by the time Saturday and Sunday nights roll around, BC and Vermont will have seen plenty of one another.
Many coaches have said that the Hockey East league title will come down to the final night of the regular season. All of them were correct.
By virtue of Providence beating Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College and Vermont skating to a 4-4 tie, and Maine’s victory over New Hampshire, tomorrow’s game between Lowell and Providence has virtually become the Hockey East regular season title game. Win the game, win the title.
That, though, is where the asterisk comes in. If either Lowell or Providence wins on Saturday, they’ll earn 34 points and the regular season title all to themselves. But what if there is a tie?
A tie will earn both teams a share of the title. But if either BC or UNH earn wins on Saturday, they’ll jump to 33 points and also earn the co-champs title.
You read that right. There is a possibility for a four-way tie for the league title. A representative from Hockey East was on-hand at Lowell’s Tsongas Center on Friday night to present the trophy in case the River Hawks clinched the title. Can the league split that person four ways for Saturday?
Some other key notes from Friday night:
- Maine and Vermont earned the final two playoff spots by virtue of the Black Bears win and UVM’s tie. The question is which team will take 7th and which takes 8th. Vermont will enter Saturday with a one point lead. The lead is a virtual two-point lead, though, because the Catamounts won the season series with the Black Bears, 2-0-1.
- Providence may control its own destiny to win the regular season title, but a loss could be devastating. If PC loses and BC, UNH and BU all win on Saturday, Providence will finish tied for fourth with BU and lose the tie-breaker meaning the Friars would be on the road for the first round of the playoffs.
- With its victory on Friday over Massachusetts, Merrimack keeps a slight glimmer of hope to take the final home ice spot. If Merrimack wins on Saturday and BC and UNH both lose, all three teams would be tied with 31 points. If BU loses, it would fall to sixth with 30 points. BC would take the third seed, Merrimack the fourth and UNH would fall out of home ice. That, though, takes a lot of stars to align.
- While all Lowell needs is a tie to clinch a share of the regular season title, in most scenarios Lowell would not be the top seed in the playoffs unless they win the title outright. The only way the River Hawks win a tie breaker for first is if it is against Providence (i.e. BC and UNH either tie or lose on Saturday). Lowell would take the top seed if tied with Providence alone based on number of league wins.
- While all eight teams that will play in this year’s Hockey East tournament have clinched their berths, none have locked themselves into a seed. For that matter (and I could be incorrect on this one, so correct me in the comments section if I’m wrong), but Lowell remains the only team in the league to have clinched home ice in the playoffs.
For a while there, my plummeting position in the picks race was starting to resemble the September, 2011 Red Sox. I became so despondent, I had to console myself with a bucket of fried chicken.
Fortunately, the proper order to the universe has been restored, which means my lead widened by another two games last weekend. The opera may not be over, but the lady of considerable girth is going tra-la-la.
Dave last week: 6-2-2
Jim last week: 4-4-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 106-67-23
Jim’s record-to-date: 98-75-23
Here are this week’s picks:
Friday, March 8
Providence at Massachusetts-Lowell
Dave’s pick: The River Hawks close to within one game of their first league title, but the Friars make it difficult.
UML 3, PC 2
Jim’s pick: Man, losing to Dave is such an embarassment, but I won’t pick against the River Hawks now hoping to pick up games.
UML 4, PC 2
Boston College at Vermont
Dave’s pick: The Eagles stay within striking distance of another regular season championship in case Lowell and New Hampshire falter, but Vermont clinches a playoff berth because Massachusetts falls to Merrimack.
BC 3, UVM 1
Jim’s pick: I am extremely concerned by BC’s injuries. I don’t know the lineup that will take the ice this weekend, but still will barely pick BC.
BC 3, UVM 2
Maine at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: This rivalry gets even more heated with the Black Bears desperate for points to make the playoffs while a UNH sweep could give them another regular season crown. Maine has been playing awfully well of late while the Wildcats have misfired a bit, but I’m still sticking with the Cats.
UNH 4, Maine 3
Jim’s pick: I think Maine can actually win this one.
Maine 3, UNH 2
Boston University at Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Even though BU has become near impossible to predict and has already lost twice this year to the Huskies, I’m still going with the Terriers. Northeastern has simply lost the war of attrition.
BU 4, NU 2
Jim’s pick: C’mon, Pops. NU has beaten BU twice this year. Ahhh, forget it. I can’t even make a case for an NU win.
BU 5, NU 2
Massachusetts at Merrimack
Dave’s pick: The Warriors have gone into a tailspin, but they’ll keep their home ice dreams alive with a convincing win over a Minuteman team desperate for points.
MC 4, UMass 1
Jim’s pick: This game is A LOT tighter than Dave makes it. I will bet on UMass here. They need points. They’ll get them.
UMass 3, MC 2
Saturday, March 9
Maine at New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: Maine backs into the playoffs thanks to Merrimack’s sweep of UMass, while New Hampshire puts the gun to Lowell’s head.
UNH 3, Maine 2
Jim’s pick: Maine cannot sweep but will still get to the playoffs. That said, I’m betting on Lowell winning the title.
UNH 5, Maine 2
Merrimack at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: It wouldn’t be a shocker to see Providence get swept by Lowell and BU manage only a split with Northeastern, allowing the Warriors to ride this sweep into home ice. For UMass, it’s the end of the season.
MC 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: Merrimack will win its final game, even if on the road.
MC 4, UMass 2
Northeastern at Boston University
Dave’s pick: The Huskies sadly stow their hockey bags and take out their drivers, irons, and putters.
BU 4, NU 1
Jim’s pick: Tee time for Mr. Husky.
BU 5, NU 3
Boston College at Vermont
Dave’s pick: I wouldn’t be surprised if Vermont picks off a point or even two this weekend, but my money is on the Eagles to sweep the same team they could face next week in the quarterfinals.
BC 3 UVM 2
Jim’s pick: BC closes its season with a win, no doubt.
BC 4, UVM 3
Massachusetts-Lowell at Providence
Dave’s pick: Needing only a tie to gain a share of of the regular season title, River Hawk Nation goes into cardiac arrest when a Friar clangs the post in overtime. But play counters back up the other end and Scott Wilson sends those same fans into delirium with the game- and title-winner.
UML 3, PC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: I see overtime, I see a loss, I see a blowaway win in the River Hawks future. All those are possibilities because this league is simply ar too unpredictable. But I think we see history as the River Hawks win their first league title.
UML 3, PC 2
These are the three things I think I learned.
1. Northeastern’s season ends next week.
When the Huskies managed only a single point in Orono, their season went from being on life support to a flat line.
With a sweep of BU, they can catch Massachusetts for ninth place if the Minutemen also get swept by Merrimack. (That will put the two teams in a tie with 18 points, but the Huskies take the tiebreaker having won the season series 2-1-0.)
But Northeastern can’t catch Maine or Vermont for one of the final two playoff berths. The season-long attrition that began with early departures to the pros and continued with transfers and suspensions, the latest of which was number-five scorer Garrett Vermeersch, resulted in a team that simply failed to match up.
2. Connor Hellebuyck (and the Massachusetts-Lowell team defense) is even better than I thought.
I knew the freshman goaltender was playing exceptionally well and posting some terrific statistics, but the reality is even more impressive.
It’s deceptive to take any goaltender’s worst game and say, “If you just remove that one game…” because any netminder looks a lot better when you give him a mulligan.
But it’s appropriate when that worst game is his collegiate debut, as is the case with Hellebuyck. (To continue the golf analogy, many hackers allow a “breakfast ball” on the tee of the first hole, but only the self-deluded allow it on random holes.)
Including his first game at Denver when he allowed five goals, Hellebuyck’s numbers are stunning: a 13-1-0 record, a 1.41 goals against average, and a .947 save percentage.
(Put it this way, you could look in the wrong column, see .929 and assume you’re looking at an excellent save percentage when instead, it’s a stunning winning percentage.)
(Put it another way, 25 percent of his entire season’s total of goals allowed came in those first 50-plus minutes.)
Without that shaky debut, Hellebuyck’s numbers become staggering: a 13-0-0 record, 1.13 GAA, and a .957 save percentage.
Any wonder why Lowell is in first place?
3. Providence’s fourth line is making a difference.
The Friars’s fourth line scored three — count ‘em, three — goals in Saturday’s huge win at Boston College.
The previous Saturday, the fourth line scored first in a 3-2 win over Northeastern.
“This is back-to-back weekends that our fourth line was our best line on Saturday night,” Providence coach Nate Leaman said after the BC win. “So that’s a really good positive for us going forward.”
With Hockey East experiencing such a logjam at the top, every advantage becomes magnified so fourth lines like the Friars’ have and will make a significant difference in the Hockey East race and playoffs.
Dave may have felt he was done in by the Curse of Nicole. Personally, I was done in by the Curse of Making Bad Picks. The white flag is in my hand right now, just about ready to be waved.
Jim last week: 5-5-1
Jim to date: 94-71-20
Dave last week: 7-3-1
Dave to date: 100-65-21
Friday, Mar. 1
Northeastern at Maine
Jim’s pick: Even though I don’t think Northeastern is a horrible team, I don’t see them winning again this year.
Maine 4, NU 2
Dave’s pick: The Huskies may play spoiler next weekend against a BU team they’ve tormented this year, but Maine will use them to vault into the playoffs.
Maine 3, NU 1
Boston College at Providence
Jim’s pick: I remember well the last time these two teams played. Though BC was the better team, Providence scrambled for a point. I just don’t see that happening again.
BC 3, PC 2
Dave’s pick: This was my toughest game to pick of the weekend. I went back and forth and came this close to picking Providence. The reasons? The Friars are playing so well now, BC is only one game over .500 on the road and the Eagles’ loss of Kevin Hayes is a crippling one. But the closer it gets to the playoffs, the tougher it is to go against the Eagles.
BC 3, PC 2 (OT)
Vermont at Boston University
Jim’s pick: This is my most challenging series of the weekend, believe it or not. Yes, BU exploded on Tuesday night vs. Merrimack, but is that team back? Vermont is playing its best hockey in two seasons right now. I’m going road upset here.
UVM 4, BU 3
Dave’s pick: I lost my confidence in the Terriers recently, picking them to lose all three of their games last week and being right in the first two, but some instinct tells me that they’ll see themselves only two points out of first place and snap out of their trance. Will Vermont prove me wrong yet again?
BU 3, UVM 2
Merrimack at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: Lowell is the hot hand right now and I’m not picking against them at home.
UML 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the red-hot River Hawks, too, but the Warriors will make it very interesting.
UML 3, MC 2
Massachusetts at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick:Sorry UMass fans but this is looking like a bad weekend for the Minutemen.
UNH 5, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The Wildcats haven’t been playing at top form lately, but I see them making the charge for yet another regular season title.
UNH 4, UMass 2
Saturday, March 2
Northeastern at Maine
Jim’s pick: Maine completes the much-needed sweep and also solidifies playoff position.
Maine 5, NU 2
Dave’s pick: This will sadly be the stick-a-fork-in-them, they’re-done game for the Huskies.
Maine 3, NU 1
Providence at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Eagles grab momentum in race for first with a sweep of the Friars.
BC 3, PC 2
Dave’s pick: I, too, see an Eagles sweep. In my mind, it’ll result in a three-way tie for first going into next weekend’s finale.
BC 3, PC 2
Vermont at Boston University
Jim’s pick: Highly likely that once again I will pick a split backwards.
BU 4, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: BU completes the sweep to stay within theoretical striking distance of first. However, losing the tiebreaker to BC, Lowell, and UNH — the three first-place teams I expect to also sweep and stay in first – dampens the reality.
BU 3, UVM 1
Massachusetts at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: The Wildcats will keep pace with the Eagles.
UNH 4, UMass 1
Dave’s pick: The Wildcats will keep pace with whichever of the other first-place teams win twice this weekend. I think it’s more likely that’ll be Lowell.
UNH 4, UMass 2
Sunday, March 3
Massachusetts-Lowell at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: I feel like home ice should and will play a major role here. River Hawks didn’t score at Lawler last time and worry that could happen again.
MC 2, UML 1
Dave’s pick: Lowell is 11-5-1 on the road this year so I’m picking the River Hawks to sweep and remain tied for first place despite the tough venue and opponent.
UML 3, MC 2 (OT)
Two weekends left and there is a three-way tie for the top spot in Hockey East. Should Massachusetts-Lowell and Boston University win make-up games on Tuesday night, there will be a four-way tie for first heading into next weekend.
1. Providence, New Hampshire and Boston College
That’s your first-place trio atop Hockey East. Add the fact that Merrimack entered the weekend in first place, you have four teams that this weekend alone held the top spot in Hockey East. I’ve been around this league since 1993 and can’t remember a race like this.
2. River Hawks, Friars sweep
By far the biggest stories this weekend were the sweeps orchestrated by Lowell and Providence. Providence was a must-sweep series facing Northeastern. Lowell was a rare feat for their team, having won earlier this season and only having swept the season series from Boston University one other time since 1983. While both of these teams are streaking and possibly ready to be upset champions in Hockey East, you can only look forward to the final weekend of the season when the two will square off in a home-and-home series.
3. Is it time to bury Northeastern?
Trust me, I’m not trying to be a negative voice in the Hockey East world right now, but after Northeastern lost its 3rd and 4th straight league games this weekend and now sit alone in last place, you have to wonder if the postseason is now unattainable for the Huskies. Granted a final weekend series against Boston University, a team NU has beaten twice, shows some promise. But it’s totally possible that two wins in the final weekend may be too late for Northeastern if they hope to climb into eighth and make the playoffs.